International Social Service's 6th Annual Fall Conference

Co-hosted by the University of Maryland School of Social Work 

Conference Summary:

ISS-USA’s 6th Annual Conference, The Ties That Bind: Exploring the Causes and Consequences of Children Separated From Their Families Across International Borders, will focus on the legal and human rights of children separated from their biological families across international borders. From long-standing methods including international adoption and international parental abduction, to emerging issues like international surrogacy and the movement of unaccompanied minors, the impact of denying children access to their biological families will be examined within the context of an increasingly global world. More importantly, the conference will concentrate on how legal, judicial and social service stakeholders can provide appropriate resources and share best practices to protect the safety, permanency and well-being of children.
The broader question underlying this conference is: how do we ensure that all discussions about family rights focus primarily on the rights of children? The dialogue surrounding laws, policies and case practice in the legal, judicial and social work arenas would look quite different if the central focus was placed on the rights of the child. Arguments about rights in these cases are often presented as competing interests between the biological parent's right to privacy and the child’s right to his or her family. This conference will begin with the premise that the child’s rights are paramount. 
The 6th Annual Conference will bring together experts in the fields of law, child protection, and human rights, as well as family members who have been successfully reunited.
The Conference will consist of four panels.
Gregory Adams, Co-chair of the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network's (MFAN) Country Ownership Working Group
Gregory Adams is an expert in U.S. global development policy and practice. He serves as co-chair of the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network's (MFAN) Country Ownership Working Group, and as co-chair of the Truman Project Democracy & Development Experts Group. He has spent the last decade working inside and outside government to improve how the United States works to end poverty and protect human rights for the poorest people around the world, including children and their families. That work has included strengthening U.S. support for humanitarian preparedness and response, ending preventable disease, and expanding and improving basic education. Most recently, Adams directed Oxfam’s advocacy work on aid effectiveness and reform of aid and development policy, both in the United States and in other donor capitals. In this role he worked to generate momentum for foreign aid and development policy reforms that are driven by a long-term commitment to effectively reduce poverty and help all people achieve their basic human rights.

Prior to Oxfam, Adams spent more than 10 years working for members of the US House of Representatives, covering national security and foreign affairs issues. Adams has given briefings and presentations at venues including the United Nations, U.S. Congress, U.S. Department of State, U.S. Agency for International Development, Organization for Economic and Development Cooperation and various universities and private sector organizations. Adams is a frequent commentator in the media including The Washington Post, Foreign Policy, NPR, The Hill and Politico.

Every day in America, approximately 6 children are abducted or retained by one of their parents in violation of the other parent’s and the child’s rights. The problem becomes compounded when the child is taken to a foreign country. Despite international treaties and domestic laws, many abducted or retained children are never returned to their left behind parent.  The consequences for these children are devastating and lifelong. The panel will examine the emotional cost paid by abducted children and what more needs to be done to protect the child’s right to have access to both parents when it is in her best interest. 

Édeanna Barbirou, Executive Director, Return US Home, Inc. (RUSH). 

Édeanna has been researching the issue of Parental Child Abduction (PCA) since 2011, when her own children were parentally abducted to Tunisia. Having spent three years in Tunisia to pursue her legal rights of custody and the right to return to the U.S. with her children, she developed tremendous working knowledge of international law, Tunisian law, and diplomacy and politics as they each pertain to PCA. Mrs. Barbirou returned to the U.S. in 2014 with her daughter, and continues to pursue the return of her illegally detained son.

Scott Berne, Parental Abduction Survivor, Child Advocate, and Board Member of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC)

Scott is a survivor of parental abduction, a children’s rights advocate, and a board member and spokesperson for the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC). In Scott’s internationally known parental abduction case in which Scott became a pawn in his mother’s attempt to destroy his father, he was taken to five countries and thirteen residences over a period of two years, and endured significant anxiety, instability, and life-threatening abuse. Scott’s experiences about his dramatic parental abduction case are retold in his book, “Extraordinary Circumstances”. He has appeared on “Oprah” and throughout the talk-show circuit to spread the word that the results of parental abduction on the children are life-long, and that education is the only remedy. Scott has recently begun working with the FBI and NCMEC with the goals of education, prevention and increased, stronger laws to protect children.

Melissa Kucinski, Attorney, MK Family Law

Melissa is an attorney at MK Family Law in Washington, D.C. who focuses on international family law, including custody, relocation, child abduction, child representation, and mediation. She consulted at the Hague Conference on Private International Law in 2013 and is a member of the U.S. Secretary of State's Advisory Committee on Private International Law. She is currently authoring a book for the American Bar Association on representing children in contested custody cases.

Moderator: Stephen Cullen, Principal, Miles & Stockbridge P.C.

Stephen serves as the head of Miles & Stockbridge's Family Law & Private Clients Group. Stephen is a fellow of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers and the International Academy of Family Lawyers. He represents parents and children in state, interstate, UCCJEA and international family and child law cases and is an expert on the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. Stephen's practice includes divorce, financial remedies, custody, child support, alimony, adoption, second parent adoption, marital contracts, marital torts, guardianships, reputation management and defamation. Stephen is also director of Miles & Stockbridge's Pro Bono Advocacy Program, and he is a member of the Board of Directors of International Social Service. Before joining Miles & Stockbridge, Stephen was a Scottish high school teacher of English and Italian and then a Scottish lawyer in Edinburgh.


Disrupted adoptions are not uncommon. The lack of post-adoption support for families is often at the center of these breakdowns in family bonds. However, adoptive parents are increasingly engaging in the practice of rehoming their adopted child without utilizing safeguards or best practices in placing children in alternative care. The impact on the child is enormous, and in some cases deadly. This panel will examine the practice of rehoming from the perspective of protecting the child’s best interest and what measures need to be taken to prevent the practice and defend the rights of children.

Erin Bradley, Executive Director, Children's League of Massachusetts

Erin serves as the Executive Director of the Children’s League of Massachusetts, a statewide non-profit association that advocates for public policies and quality services for children, youth and families. She has been active in the drafting and advocacy of proposed legislation to penalize the re-homing of children in Massachusetts since September 2013 and will continue to ardently advocate for policies to end this practice.

Kate Cleary, Executive Director, Consortium for Children

Kate Cleary had been involved in child welfare with a focus on adoption and foster care for the past 30 years. She is Executive Director of Consortium for Children, an organization whose programs include the SAFE Home Study.

Maureen Flatley, Government Relations Consultant Specializing in Government Reform and Oversight of Adoption and Child Welfare

Maureen Flatley is a Boston-based government relations consultant specializing in government reform and oversight of adoption and child welfare. Before moving to Massachusetts in 2002, her firm was based in Washington, D.C. for nearly 30 years. She has provided expert advice and consultation to the White House, members of Congress, foreign heads of state and state legislators on a range of adoption and child welfare issues. She also provides services to non-profits serving children as well as attorneys and their clients including children and families victimized in the child welfare and adoption systems both here and abroad. Ms. Flatley serves on the boards of Fostering Families Today Magazine and the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children.

Moderator: Debra Linsenmeyer, Educational Director, Title IV-E Program, University of Maryland School of Social Work

Debra A. Linsenmeyer is a clinical social worker, social work educator, and human service administrator with over 35 years of professional social work experience. She holds a Master’s Degree in Social Work and a post-graduate certificate in Human Services Management from the University of Maryland School of Social Work. Her background includes direct practice, supervision, and administration of public child welfare services, and teaching psychology, human services, and social work courses.

Currently, Ms. Linsenmeyer is a faculty member at the University of Maryland School of Social Work, where she directs the Title IV-E Education for Public Child Welfare Program. She has authored and implemented two federal child welfare workforce demonstration projects (Excellence in Public Child Welfare Supervision (2004-2008) and a National Child Welfare Workforce Traineeship program (2009-2014). Ms. Linsenmeyer was part of University of Maryland School of Social Work team that developed and implemented a research study in 2013 examining methods of teaching Motivational Interviewing to child welfare students.


Over the past five years, tens of thousands of unaccompanied children have fled their homes and moved to a foreign country because of violence, war, natural disasters, and poverty. There are more people living outside of their birth countries, and the number of vulnerable children traveling alone is also on the rise. This panel will examine the toll that these children must pay to come to America in search of their family, or simply a safer life. The dialogue about immigration reform and domestic policies surrounding undocumented immigrant children will refocus on what is in the child’s best interest, as well as what must be done to protect the child either here in the U.S., or upon their return to their home country.

Frida Espinosa Cárdenas, Transnational Family Support Coordinator, the Institute for Women in Migration (IMUMI)

Frida is the Transnational Family Support Coordinator at the Institute for Women in Migration, a NGO based in Mexico City. She dedicates most of her time to offering capacity-building workshops to Mexican government officials around transnational families issues, including family separation and reunification and return migration to Mexico, while advocating for the infrastructure and policy that is needed to cater to families with U.S.-born children living in Mexico. Frida is a binational woman who grew up in Tucson, Arizona and was undocumented 11 years. She has worked as an advocate for mental health, LGBTQ rights, and advocated against the detention and the criminalization of migrant people. She holds a Masters in Public Health from the National Institute of Public Health in Mexico and a BA in US/Mexico Border Studies from the University of Arizona.

Kevin Ipiña, Youth Peer Mentor, La Puerta Abierta 

Kevin is in his senior year at Benjamin Franklin High School in Philadelphia while working in construction and doing welding. He is working hard toward his dream of going to college. Kevin came to the U.S. from Guatemala approximately four years ago to reunite with his father after many years of separation. While adjusting to a new language, school experience, community and family life, Kevin began his involvement with La Puerta Abierta in Philadelphia. After participation in LPA's school-based youth group, Kevin was invited to participate in Compas de Viaje, a youth peer mentor training program that provides support to newcomer youth in the region. Kevin is now part of a cohort of mentors-in-training who share their stories and wisdom with community providers to increase awareness and understanding of the migration experience and challenges of newcomer youth.

Andrew Lorenzen-Strait, Deputy Assistant Director for Custody Management, Custody Programs Division, Office of Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO), U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)

Andrew is the Deputy Assistant Director for Custody Management, Custody Programs Division, Office of Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO), U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), US Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Mr. Lorenzen-Strait supports and strengthens ICE’s immigration custody operations by providing objective policy and program development, analysis, and monitoring that continuously improves detention and effectively integrates ICE’s detention reform goals. Mr. Lorenzo-Strait holds a BA in political science from the University of California at Irvine, a JD with an emphasis in child advocacy from Whittier Law School, and a Certificate in National Security Leadership and Decision-Making from the U.S. National Defense University.

Moderator: Kimberly Haynes, Director for Children Services, Lutheran Immigration & Refugee Service (LIRS)

Kimberly is the Director for Children Services at Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS). Kimberly has over 15 years of refugee experience and has been the Director for Children Services at LIRS since 2011. Kimberly is an expert on issues of child welfare, unaccompanied migrant and refugee children and families, research, resettlement, and best interest assessments and determinations, and has developed and implemented family strengthening projects and refugee assistance programs with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Office of Refugee Resettlement. Before joining the LIRS team, Kimberly worked as a best interest determination and child protection officer with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees through the International Rescue Committee and the International Catholic Migration Committee in Thailand, Ethiopia, and Zambia. Kimberly received her Master's of Social Work from the University of Maryland and her Bachelor's in Social Work from Texas State University.

4. Biology and Family: Regulating Reproductive Technologies and Protecting the Rights of the Children

Advances in reproductive technology, including sperm and egg donation, embryo adoption, and surrogacy, have changed the landscape of who can have children quite dramatically. Infertile couples, gay and lesbian couples, and individuals without partners can now become parents without going through the process of adoption. While these technological advances have been of benefit to the prospective parent(s), less attention has been paid to the outcome of these medical advances: the child. This panel will examine the broad questions surrounding the rights of the child in these cases. Experts will also examine what regulations need to be in place to promote ethical practice in reproductive technologies and will explore the larger social context within which the primacy of a biological definition of family exists.

Katy Doran, Donor-Conceived Advocate; Senior Fellow, The Coalition Against Reproductive Trafficking

Katy is a donor-conceived advocate and Senior Fellow with the Coalition Against Reproductive Trafficking. Katy Doran graduated from the University of Florida in 2013 with bachelors in Journalism and Business Administration. She currently serves full-time as Operations Manager for CanaVox, a marriage movement that highlights family, kinship, and discusses children's rights. Katy additionally serves as a Senior Fellow with Alana Newman, her brother Matt, and more at the Coalition Against Reproductive Trafficking. There they inform others about the harms of donor conception and surrogacy. She is a speaker and advocate for donor-conceived people, natural family planning, and natural healing, and takes every opportunity to share with friends old and new about how the separation of family harms its members, and the importance of connecting with one's heritage and missing family members fulfills basic human longing.

Travis Rieder, PhD, Assistant Director of Education Initiatives & Research Scholar, Berman Institute of Bioethics, Johns Hopkins University

Travis is the Assistant Director of Education Initiatives & Research Scholar at the Berman Institute of Bioethics at Johns Hopkins University. Travis Rieder is a philosopher by training, and is currently faculty at the Berman Institute of Bioethics at Johns Hopkins University. There, he directs the Master in Bioethics program, where he teaches about the role of ethical theory in bioethics, current issues, and procreative ethics. Travis is passionate about discussing bioethics outside of the academy, and has had his work featured in Wired Magazine, The Adaptors Podcast, and NPR's All Things Considered. 

Elizabeth J. Samuels, Professor of Law, University of Baltimore School of Law

Elizabeth J. Samuels is a professor at the University of Baltimore School of Law. She has written and spoken widely on adoption law topics, including adoption records laws, adoption consent laws, and relinquishment of parental rights agreements. She has testified about proposed adoption laws in state legislatures and consulted with legislators and adoption law reform advocates in many states. She is a graduate of Harvard College and the University of Chicago Law School. Before joining the law faculty in 1987, she was a law clerk for Judge James L. Oakes, United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, and a legal services attorney and adjunct law professor in Alabama.

Moderator: Felicity Northcott, Director of External Partnerships and International Services, International Social Service-USA

Felicity joined International Social Service in 2007 after 20 years at Johns Hopkins University. Felicity received her B.A. in Women’s Studies, Summa Cum Laude, from Goucher College, and an M.A. and Ph.D. in Anthropology from Johns Hopkins University. Her dissertation, "Acting in a Manner not Usual for Law Abiding Citizens: Constructing Homeless in Baltimore," was based on 26 months of field research with homeless men in Baltimore City. Felicity worked as the Associate Director of the Institute for Global Studies at Johns Hopkins University and held a Senior Lectureship in The Department of Anthropology. In 2002 she was awarded the Alumni Association Excellence in Teaching Award.



Continuing Education Units

The University of Maryland School of Social Work’s Office of Continuing Professional Education is authorized by the Board of Social Work Examiners in Maryland to sponsor social work continuing education programs and maintains full responsibility for this program. This training qualifies for six (6) Category I continuing education units.


Elm Room 208A
2nd Floor, SMC Campus Center
University of Maryland
621 West Lombard St.
Baltimore, MD 21201

For directions and information about parking, visit the SMC Campus Center Page.


October 13, 2016


For the full conference schedule, view the full conference agenda.

Please contact Diana DeMallie for any questions.

Our 6th Annual Fall Conference is Sponsored by:





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